I have been inspired to find out about one of my lovely rose paintings by watching the short daily talks given by Philip Mould OBE, the art dealer, researcher and writer, on youtube about the paintings he has in his home. I cannot aspire to owning similar valuable paintings but research into this particular rose painting and the painter behind the picture is something I have wanted to do for a while. It is a painting that I purchased at the time I bought the library of the Royal National Rose Society but I have never been able to read the signature. Recently, however, a very kind gentleman from Bonham’s auction house was able to get it identified for me. The artist was well-known in her day and her paintings occasionally come to auction. The story behind the painting (the reason I love Philip Mould’s talks) is worth more to me than the sale value but, as is often the case I have only uncovered part of the story.
Anna (Alice) Van Heddegham loved to paint flowers. Being Dutch but living in central London, away from her homeland, in the early 1900s she would venture to Covent Garden flower market each morning to find the seasonal flowers of England, Italy or France that she could bring home to study and paint. It was said that she “carried her dreams into her home with her flowers”. She avoided the exotics and stiff stemmed flowers preferring the garden roses that she could capture in their casual glory. She would paint these scattered over a ledge or tumbling from a vase. She did not uphold the view that a flower painting should be a still life as did her previous generations but that her paintings should be natural without uniformity and the need for props and artefacts.
Alice exhibited in London and throughout Britain during the years 1906 – 1927. She exhibited at some of the most prestigious galleries of the time including the Royal Academy, the Walker Gallery in Liverpool, the Abbey Gallery that was in Westminster and Baillie Gallery, formerly in Baker Street. At some point in time this particular painting by her was bought by another lover of roses and was presented by him to the National Rose Society on his departure from its presidency during the two years 1961 and 1962. Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C., a lawyer by profession and a recipient of the Military Cross for bravery in World War 1, dedicated many years of service to the Rose Society being on several committees prior to becoming the society’s president.
Ernest Royalton-Kisch must have liked the glorious painting by Alice Van Heddegham just as I do. As his retirement from the presidency of the Rose Society coincided with its move from Westminster to St Albans he possibly thought that it would be a fitting gift that could grace the walls of the Society’s new ‘home’. Where the painting was prior to that date I do not know but between the early 1960s and 2017 it was in the headquarters of the (Royal) National Rose Society and since 2017 has been looking beautiful in The Rosarian Library where it will stay for the time being. Thank you Alice Van Heddegham for painting these roses a century ago and Ernest Royalton-Kisch M.C. for your symbolic gift to the society.